Chef Richard Bainbridge’s reveals cold coffee is the next big thing
- Credit: Katja Bainbridge
Richard Bainbridge of Benedicts Restaurant, Norwich, explains why the best coffee this year is chilled, and why we should all be using filtered water for our brew…
I love a good coffee. At Benedicts we only use single origin coffee and we only do batch brew and V60, which is essentially a natural drip-through process. The only reason we don't do cappuccinos, flat whites and lattes is because a barista is a barista and it's a skill which takes years to perfect. I want my serving staff to be on the floor giving customers great service, not worrying about dusting cappuccinos with chocolate powder.
We taste coffee between once a week and once a month with our supplier. It's called cupping. You get the coffee cup and look at the foam on top and go in with the spoon, swirl it then quickly pick it up and sip it. It's almost like tasting wine. And you're actually pretty much doing the same thing as wine tasting. There are distinct taste differences from coffees all around the world.
Guatemalan coffee is floral and quite summery, whereas El Salvador produces coffee that is bold and rich with an intense flavour.
When we first opened the restaurant and started selling single origin coffee people were like 'the place is lovely but your coffee is disgusting'. I was hurt because I couldn't afford an expensive coffee machine. They're about £10k which I couldn't afford. Now, slowly but surely, people are loving our coffee and come in time and time again to have it – and they drink it without milk. We stuck ourselves out there and want to stick to our guns to show people what good coffee can be.
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When it comes to choosing coffee, there's a thing called The Coffee Belt. It's that middle part of the world from Mexico to Hawaii, Guatemala going round to Kenya. The best coffee is grown at higher altitude where the beans grow slower.
One of the things that surprised me the most was the most commercial countries for coffee are Brazil and Vietnam. When I read about Vietnam I was like 'really?' but if you go to the supermarket and look on the backs of packets, a lot of coffee comes from there.
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In the restaurant you get a card with the story of the coffee and where it's come from. The best I think is Kenyan coffee. It's great and a nice introduction to single origin. And then go on and try the others.
We advise customers to drink our coffee without milk. Just because, when you are using single origin coffee beans, it's almost like wine. There are so many complex flavours to the beans when they are roasted. When you drink the coffee black you get all of those sensations coming through instead of it being all cloudy and blurgh.
With coffee you have peaks and troughs in temperature, and the flavour changes so diversely. We make our coffee by batch brew at 97C so when it gets to the customer it's the perfect temperature of 89C to 92C.
At home try bringing your kettle to the boil and letting it sit awhile to cool down slightly before making your coffee. It's a bit like a hot bath. You want the coffee to relax into the water.
Also, I want people to do a test at home. In East Anglia our water is so so hard and it's all about the ph level when it comes to coffee. Mineral water is key. We use filtered bottled water for all our coffee at Benedicts and at home. And we use it in our soups and stocks.
If you make your coffee at home with mineral or filtered water I guarantee you'll taste the difference. That neutral ph level is perfect for coffee. My coffee consultant Darren from Little Red Roaster told me that our hard water almost blocks the flavour of the coffee.
Any good coffee shop will have a filter or be using bottled water – especially in Norwich. In the mornings you walk around and see these hipster guys walking around with bottled water and you think, 'ooh they're healthy' but they're probably just going to their coffee shop!
The next big thing
Cold brew coffee was all the rage last year. The new thing for 2017 is flash brewing. Basically they make it like they do a Guinness. It goes through the same process. It's brewed and goes through the tap, passes through nitrogen and comes out the other side looking like stout – smooth with that silky rich top. That's going to be the new thing all over the place.
It's quite exciting!
Richard's top five East Anglian coffee spots
1. Little Red Roaster, Norwich
2. Kofra, Norwich
3. The Fire Station, Woodbridge
4. Grey Seal, North Norfolk (various outlets)
5. Coffeelink, Ipswich
Richard and Katja Bainbridge own and run Benedicts Restaurant in Norwich.
@RestBenedicts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook